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Kristen Gray tweeted that Bali was affordable and LGBTQ-friendly, urging others to move there, prompting local officials to deport her and her girlfriend

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 20, 2021 11:06 AM
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Kristen Antoinette Gray
Kristen Antoinette Gray, left, walks with her partner Saundra Michelle Alexander, right, to be tested for the coronavirus at a hospital in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on Jan. 20, 2021.
| Credit: Firdia Lisnawati/AP/Shutterstock

An American travel influencer who spent 2020 in Bali and went viral for a Twitter thread encouraging others to move to the Indonesian island is now being deported, multiple outlets report.

Kristen Gray, a 28-year-old graphic designer, and her girlfriend Saundra Alexander, 30, are, as of Wednesday morning, awaiting a flight back to the United States while in immigration detention, according to the Associated Press. Gray's viral Twitter thread caught the attention of local government, who claim she was carrying out business endeavors in Bali without the correct visa to do so.

Gray reportedly offered consultation fees and touted her ebook about how to move to Bali, and her posts called the area "queer friendly," though Indonesia lawmakers back in early 2020 proposed a bill to require LGBTQ people to attend rehab to "cure" them, NBC News previously reported.

Gray's social media presences have since been deleted or set to private, but some social media users documented alleged screen grabs of her viral thread. In them, she claimed living in Bali was significantly cheaper than in Los Angeles and promoted her ebook titled Our Bali Life Is Yours.

"She stated that she could provide easy access to Bali through the recommended agency and offered the low living costs in Bali, that it is comfortable and LGBTQ-friendly," Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the AP.

Manihuruk also reportedly said Gray "disseminated information disturbing to the public" and that she is "suspected of carrying out business activities by selling e-books and put a rate for consulting [about] Bali tourism." Manihuruk also reaffirmed local travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The Bali Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights urges foreign nationals to comply with the current COVID-19 pandemic to comply with health protocols and to follow right procedures regarding visa processing and while in Indonesia," Manihuruk said.

Gray told reporters, according to the AP, that she is innocent: "I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am deported because of LGBT."

Gray could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE for comment.

In a BuzzFeed News round-up of online reactions to Gray's viral thread, her comments became controversial to locals for encouraging others to flock to Bali and take advantage of low-cost living arrangements as some native to the area struggle to stay afloat. Some were especially concerned about recommending the relocation during the pandemic, potentially causing an influx of the virus to the island.